Lovely bonus of pregnancy? No periods!
Unfortunately, at some point postpartum, your period will return. But when?
Breastfeeding suppresses menstruation at least for a while. For some mothers, there may be an absence of menstruation for weeks, months, and even years while still breastfeeding.
Some mothers will even need to completely wean before they see their first period. Others, once their babies begin taking supplemental foods or sleeping longer periods at night, will see the first period. Once menstruation returns it may continue to be irregular during lactation. It’s not uncommon to have a shorter or longer than normal period while breastfeeding. It’s also not abnormal to skip a period or see the first period return and then find that months pass before the next one.
When the first period returns depends upon several factors: how frequently the baby is nursing, how often the baby is supplemented with bottles, whether or not the baby takes a pacifier, how long the baby is sleeping at night, whether or not solids have been introduced, and the mother’s own individual body chemistry and the way it responds to hormonal influences associated with breastfeeding. Any time the stimulation to the breast is decreased, especially at night, menstruation is likely to return soon after. – Becky Flora, BSed, IBCLC
You may experience lactational amenorrhea – no period or ovulation due to breastfeeding. This is likely caused by both the hormones necessary to produce breast milk and the hormones created by the act of breastfeeding your baby. Women around the globe use LAM – the lactational amenorrhea method – to prevent pregnancy.
Exclusive breastfeeding (by itself) is 98-99.5% effective in preventing pregnancy as long as all of the following conditions are met:
Your baby is less than six months old
Your menstrual periods have not yet returned
Baby is breastfeeding on cue (both day & night), and gets nothing but breastmilk or only token amounts of other foods. – Kelly Boynata, BS, IBCLC
For women who are not breastfeeding, their periods are likely to return sooner. A 2011 study found that most non-lactating women resume menstruation between 45-94 days postpartum.
When your period does return, it is likely to be different compared to pre-pregnancy – perhaps heavier, lighter, a different color blood, or more/less clotting.
And of course, as we all remember from health class, we ovulate BEFORE we menstruate. While there is ample research to suggest that it may take several cycles to return to “normal” fertility levels, it is still entirely possible to conceive a new pregnancy – maybe even before your first postpartum period.
Talk with your midwife or doctor about your birth control options.
We also highly, highly recommend a wonderful book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MPH. It is full of useful, and frankly mind-blowing information that even us doulas didn’t know about human reproduction. It is also a fantastic tool for anyone in their reproductive years, from teens to perimenopausal women.
And one final word: if you haven’t yet tried a menstrual cup – this is a great time to start! We love this resource for finding what will work for you.